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bible-606f1c49a0bacbf591e73674be34260b3125176d-s40-c85Some of you may be wondering why so many people are talking about the Bible’s storyline lately. What’s the big deal? Why is it so important for Christians to be able to connect the dots of the Bible’s grand narrative? Here are four reasons.

1. To gain a biblical worldview

The first reason we need to keep the biblical storyline in mind is because the narrative of the Bible is the narrative of the world. The Bible doesn’t just give us commands and prohibitions. It gives us an entire worldview.

We all live according to a worldview. A worldview is the lens through which we see the world and make decisions. It’s like wearing a pair of glasses. You don’t think about looking at your glasses when you have them on. You look through them to see the world around you. Everyone has a worldview, even people who are not Christians.

Unfortunately, there are many Christians who do not have a Christian worldview. They may display some of the religious trappings of Christianity, but they demonstrate by their choices that they are living by another worldview.

The storyline of the Bible is important because it helps us think as Christians formed by the great Story that tells the truth about our world. It is vitally important that people know the overarching storyline of the Bible that leads from creation, to our fall into sin, to redemption through Jesus Christ, and final restoration in the fullness of time. If we are to live as Christians in a fallen world, we must be shaped by the grand narrative of the Scriptures, the worldview we find in the Bible.

2. To recognize and reject false worldviews

A few years ago, two sociologists studying the religious views of young people in North America coined the phrase “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Those are three big words that sum up the following five beliefs of many in our society today:

  1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.” (That’s the “Deism” part. God created the world, watches things, but doesn’t do much in the way of intervening in human affairs.)
  2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.” (That’s the Moralistic part. The goal of religion is to be a nice, moral person.)
  3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.” (That’s the Therapeutic part. The most important thing in life is to be happy and well-balanced.)
  4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.” (Now, we see the Deistic view of God combine with God’s therapeutic purpose. He exists to make us happy.)
  5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.” (Salvation is accomplished through morality.)

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. “Moralism,” for short. Our society is awash in this worldview. Even longtime church members are not immune to it.

So, if we are going to be effective witnesses to the gospel in our day and age, we must put forth a biblical view of the world that counters rival worldviews. Just think, if you were called to be a missionary to India, wouldn’t you first study Hinduism to see how it affects the culture and the people’s view of God there? Wouldn’t part of your strategy be to show how Christianity counters the Hindu worldview

Likewise, if you were called to be a missionary to Iran, would you not study the worldview of Muslims and see where Christianity and Islam diverge? A good missionary knows what Christianity teaches as opposed to what the dominant worldview of the culture says, even if that worldview is the moralistic therapeutic deism of the United States.

3. To rightly understand the gospel

Another reason we need to know the story line of the Bible is because the gospel can quickly become distorted without it. The story of the Bible gives context to the gospel message about Jesus.

Too many times, we think of the gospel as a story that jumps from the Garden of Eden (we’ve all sinned) right to the cross (but Jesus fixes everything). On its own, that works fine in communicating the systematic points of our need for salvation and God’s provision in Christ, but from a biblical theological perspective, it doesn’t do justice to what’s actually in the text. Once a person becomes a Christian and cracks the Bible, they’re going to wonder what the big deal is about Israel and the covenant, since that storyline takes up roughly 75% of the Bible. Getting people into that story is important. As D.A. Carson says, the announcement is incoherent without it.

I once spent significant time witnessing to a coworker, one of those “all religions lead to God-consciousness sort of guy.” He and I went back and forth on the gospel. Eventually, he admitted that he believed Jesus had been raised from the dead bodily. Yet his explanation of the resurrection was this:God raised Jesus from the dead because He’d been unjustly condemned, and His purpose in rising was to demonstrate His God-consciousness so He could beckon us to learn from Him. In other words, Jesus was still just Master Teacher and not Savior and Lord. My coworker got the bare facts of the announcement right, and yet the story he was working from was wrong. The story line affected the announcement to the point where he really didn’t believe the gospel at all.

We need the biblical story line in order to understand the gospel of Jesus. Otherwise, sharing the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection is like coming into a movie theater at the most climactic moment but without any knowledge of the story thus far. You will be able to discern bits and pieces of the story, but you won’t understand the full significance of what is happening unless you know the backstory.

4. To keep our focus on Christ

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about making the gospel announcement of Jesus Christ front and center in our preaching and teaching. As our society becomes increasingly post-Christian, it is critical for us to not assume lost people know who God is, what He is like, and what He has done for us. We need to be clear in what we teach, with a laser-like focus on Jesus Christ our Savior. The biblical storyline helps us do this.

Every story has a main character. The Bible does too. It’s God. Specifically, it’s God as He reveals Himself to us in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Here’s what happens if we learn individual Bible stories and never connect them to the big Story. We put ourselves in the scene as if we are the main character. We take the moral examples of the Old and New Testament as if they were there to help us along in the life we’ve chosen for ourselves.

But the more we read the Bible, the more we see that God is the main character, not us. We are not the heroes learning to overcome all obstacles, persist in our faith, and call down fire from heaven. We’re the ones who need rescue, who need a Savior who will deliver us from Satan, sin, and death. It’s only in bowing before the real Hero of the story that we are in the right posture to take our place in the unfolding drama. Bearing in mind the big story of Scripture helps us keep our focus on Jesus, and off ourselves.

~~~~~

This post is an excerpt from my new book Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in All the Scripture.


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19 thoughts on “4 Reasons to Teach the Bible’s Storyline”

  1. Rob Betts says:

    Hi
    This is a great post. There have been quite a few books published over recent years aiming to do just this, and I’m myself developing teaching material along the same lines. For individual study, there’s a relative wealth of resources to use. But (in my limited experience) there appears to be few local churches in the UK who teach the Bible’s storyline as part of their corporate teaching/preaching curriculum. Do you know of any good resources that already exist designed for local churches to do this in reasonable depth, i.e. not just a brief overview (either leader-taught or more discussion based)? Blessings, Rob

    1. Trevin Wax says:

      The Gospel Project for Adults and Students goes into greater detail as it walks through the grand narrative and also does theological reflection along the way. You can access the material digitally in the UK or can order the book versions.

  2. Simon says:

    I think the term “biblical worldview” is erroneous or at least not helpful. The correct term for Christians is the “Christian worldview”. The Holy Scriptures are understood in the context of the community who reads them. We do not (strictly speaking) follow a book, we follow God. God is not simply contained in a book. Furthermore, various “biblical worldviews” (note the plural) are sometimes simply ideologies of certain individuals or evangelical sub-groups projected onto the text. There is a Christian worldview. And that is love, for God is love. And Christ is the way and the truth and the life. This is the top and the bottom of a Christian worldview.

  3. In a Buddhist village context in the Golden Triangle we NEEDED to convey the whole story consistently. The life of Jesus was very appealing to the people. But they perceived for him to have so much merit in this life and still suffer and die so terribly, he must have been evil in the previous life to have such bad karma. The resurrection then scared them. They knew he was an angry ghost coming back from the dead to use his powers for vengeance against everyone.
    When we taught the broader story to give context, it made all the difference. Now they have a disciple making movement, where there had be no believer.
    What we did NOT teach was a 4 part story of Creation/Fall/Redemption/Renewal. Why not?

    1. Gene Foltz says:

      Russell, Good to see your name on the post above. You asked “Why not? ” Okay you got me. I want to hear your thoughts.
      To all, I would recommend you look at the GoodSeed materials that address these key issues. Their books have been translated into 40 different languages and they have over 60 translation projects in process. They address world view, local cultural issues, written in simple terminology for basic readers and illustrated with pictures. I hear they are having outstanding results around the world and in the west. I was in Thailand last month and was told they are being used all over the country by Christian leaders.

      1. 1st believer was a classic story of someone who believed there must be a God above all, but did not know how to reach him. He was delighted when he heard the gospel and eagerly believed. His teen daughter had a life threatening illness. We prayed, she got well dramatically, and it looked like renewed creation was upon us. 2 years later a tragedy unfolded including much suffering and confusion. What happened to the Good News? I explained Romans 8 suffering etc., the “already but not yet” and I made a decision. Always present the 5 part story of Good Creation-Bad Separation-Meaningful Redemption-Purposeful Transformation-Hope Completion. Romans 8 is my invitation imagery. It is the image of the Christian life of settled FAITH that we are already complete in Christ, not yet seeing the full reconciliation of Heaven and Earth but expecting it with certain HOPE, and meanwhile we LOVE the world like our Lord, by taking up our cross and suffering well. It is the message rings from the New Testament emphatically, but is too often truncated by a 4 part story of Good/Fall/Jesus/Great. It leads to Christians pretending things are easier and better than they are. That crucial 4th out of 5 is where we glorify Christ until he brings us to completion. That’s why. Thank you very much for asking, Gene!!

  4. Larry Pounds says:

    Excellent article. It is easy to understand sections of the Bible and yet not comprehend it as a whole. As God is One, the story of the Bible is as well. Seeing the reaching of God to man throughout the whole book changes our perspective from self (man) centered to God-centered. Thank you Trevin.

  5. Gavin says:

    Thank you for this post. Have you seen the materials from GoodSeed? See their resources at goodseed.com.

    Their resources do exactly what you describe: teach the gospel chronologically. Their materials start at creation and lay the foundation by telling key Old Testament stories before going into the gospel story. This gives a person the necessary background and context to understand who Jesus is and what he accomplished on the cross. Their resources are designed for different worldviews, age groups and learning abilities. I have really benefitted from them, both in learning and then in teaching with them. The materials have worked well with believers and unbelievers.

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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